Science is the Driving Force That Improves Lives — Fully Fund It!

While international news has dominated the headlines this week, we all need to keep our attention focused on the proposed cuts to National Institues of Health funding included in the FY 2018 budget template released by the U.S. presidential administration. The new budget takes effect October 1. If the draconian 18 percent cut proposed for the NIH budget should survive the budget development process, the negative impact on science would be unprecedented and difficult to fully appreciate. In current dollar terms, the template calls for a $5.8 billion cut to NIH’s current $31.7 billion budget.

Draconian comes from Draco, a 7th-century B.C. Athenian lawmaker who created a written code of law. This code was to clarify preexisting laws, but its severity is what made it really memorable. Draconian, as a result, became associated with things cruel or harsh.

The proposed cuts are indeed harsh and would dramatically setback the largest biomedical research agency in the world. NIH awards more than 50,000 competitive grants and contracts to more than 330,000 researchers annually. The important work of many GSA members is supported by the NIH. Every one research grant awarded results in seven new jobs. In 2011, NIH research funding led to the creation of 432,094 jobs. Research!America found that every $1 million that NIH invests generates $2 million in new state business activity.  When you’ve got a “winner” like this, the best thing to do is invest more, not less. We need to fully fund the NIH. At time when job creation is a priority, investing in NIH is a surefire way to do so.

The proposed cuts are also cruel. Disease impacts all lives and all families regardless of political affiliation. Cutting America’s investment in the most admired research agency in the world would have many unintended consequences. The curtailment of existing research activities would impact longitudinal studies and slow progress in answering vexing questions around the most effective treatments for human disease. While the unanswered research and treatment questions will still be here in four years, the patients who could have benefited from advances in biomedical research during this period may not.

To help raise awareness of the importance of science to improving the lives of all humans, GSA is participating in the March for Science on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. A number of team members will attend the DC march, which is described as “a celebration of our passion for science and the many ways science serves our communities and our world. The March for Science is an unprecedented global gathering of scientists and science enthusiasts joining together to acknowledge the vital role science plays in our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.” There are satellite events taking place around the world. Let me know if you plan to participate!

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